I strived for many years to attain transcendental consciousness through meditation but in vain. However, ever since I started riding horses, transcendental consciousness came to me naturally. And then I wondered how I lived all these years without these beautiful beasts in my life!
Every time I rode a horse ‘feel good hormones’ obediently kicked in, as if their lives depended on it. After every ride I went through feelings that ranged from “I want to do something heroic” to “God is in his heaven and all’s right with the world”. Magical happiness takes over my entire existence. In my opinion, the scent of a horse is better than the best perfume. Sometimes it provides oxygen to a needy soul.
While riding a horse you are too busy observing your horse’s body language and communicating to the horse through your own body language. Therefore, you do not have time or space in your mind to process other thoughts. That state of thoughtlessness is what most people try to achieve through meditation. In addition, there is physical exertion. Every riding session feels like a spa session, except that it’s sweaty.
Now, my favorite language is ‘Horse’. It’s very interesting and you don’t have to worry about correct usage of grammar. For example, the position of a horse’s ears indicates his mood.
- Pricked ears: he’s curious;
- Pinned back ears: he’s angry;
- Ears back but not pinned: he’s listening to you;
- Ears forward: listening to something else.
They also talk with the other parts of their body… Swishing tail: sign of agitation or warning the other horses to keep their distance. Flattened tail: fear.
They communicate through sounds too…
- Sigh followed by a shudder: relaxed or bored
- Nickering: seeking attention or they recognize you
- Groaning: pain or just a plain habit
- Snorting: excitement. It is as simple as that.
Most of us consider horses as dangerous animals and horse riding as a dangerous sport. You’ll be surprised to know that horses are flight animals and not fight animals. This means, they choose to flee at the first opportunity than to fight. However, like any other sport, accidents happen while riding a horse too.
Horses are more like children: innocent, mischievous, and sometimes temperamental and want to be free to do what they want to do. Of course, they are powerful and elegant at the same time. Just by watching their beautiful gait, shiny, swaying mane and tail, your heart will be filled with joy. All you have to do is to look into their large brown glassy eyes and you will be transformed to their world. Besides, horses have the largest eyes among the land mammals and there is absolutely no way you can ignore them. Horses can sleep both standing as well as lying down. They sleep better when they are in a group as some horses stand guard, while the others are sleeping. Horses are herd bound and when isolated they would rather to live with a human than in solitude.
In the world of horses, it’s always about horses. I find it very fascinating when someone says, “Did you ride Starlite before? She’s jumping today;” “Zamindar was fabulous in today’s shows;” “Kalina as always did a great job.” I would be forced to ask who was riding these horses; otherwise there is absolutely no mention of the person in the discussion. It is absolutely thrilling to know that it is not human but another animal that is being treated as a superior creature and without the animal demanding it.
Horses and humans have been working together since time immemorial. Horses have been used in wars, as porters by gypsies, in agriculture to till fields, for entertainment in shows and races, for meat consumption, and in the medical field to make anti-venom. Evidently, horses are viewed as status symbols.
One day in Bangalore, I was riding a horse named Donald – an old one with a “been there done that” attitude. When I was trying to hug him, I saw some white flakes on his crest, closer to the mane. Worried, I asked my instructor, if Donald had some problem. My instructor casually shrugged and said he has hair so he will have dandruff too, just like us. Horses have graying hair, thinning hair, dandruff and other hair-related problems!
Horses are not much different from us humans. Some horses are fearful and some are bold. Some have strong work ethics and some are utterly lazy. Some are competitive in nature and some couldn’t care less about winning. Some are truly amiable and some are outright hostile. So understanding a horse’s nature is much like understanding a human being’s nature.
Horses can be great teachers of tolerance, obedience, hard work, and friendship among other things. Horse riding to me has been very therapeutic and my life would have been incomplete without these magnificent, mystical, life-altering creatures. Surprisingly, I found that therapeutic riding or “Hippotherapy” is used to treat mentally and physically disabled persons to help them improve balance and coordination, increase self-confidence, and get a greater feeling of freedom!